On the matter of the alleged threat of a supposed lurch towards sectarianism on the part of NIPSA, as highlighted by Padraig / Patrick Mulholland when he states “It has recently been suggested by some that trade unions should form alliances with political parties that are based on the sectarian divide”, one would have to ask who are these “some” that Padraig / Patrick refers to? What exactly have they proposed and why, more importantly, does Padraig / Patrick think that NIPSA will bend to the wishes of the few? We, as a democratic union, ought to be told.
Somewhat contradictorily Padraig / Patrick states “It is my very firm view that if unions align themselves with either green or orange then our movement will fracture. I believe the trade union movement should be political but it should also be independent; our politics should be the politics of jobs, pay, pensions, homes, the NHS and education and it should be the politics of anti-sectarianism. We should not allow ourselves to become part of sectarian politics”.
It’s strange that Padraig / Patrick has such narrow focus that he sees the threat of a fracture as coming from only an alignment to parties based on orange or green politics yet he appears happily oblivious to the threat of other political “shades” having too much say.
Padraig / Patrick states “I will never take risks with the unity of our movement“. Note “movement”, not “union” and here it is again with the clear distinction being made “I am asking all members of NIPSA to stand with me in defending the unity and independence of our union and our movement.”
Sectarianism is not confined solely to religious beliefs. Sectarianism is also evident in politics and a union controlled mainly, if not almost entirely, by the Socialist Party is neither “independent” nor, for that matter, anti-sectarian from an industrial or political point of view.
Clearly there are risks being taken with the unity of the union, not least because of the Broad Left and Unity caucuses which exist within the union. Is Padraig / Patrick calling for the disbandment of both or either of those groupings? If he is we’re not hearing about it. Why is that?
Anti sectarianism has been the bedrock of NIPSA since its inception. To listen to some of the rhetoric doing the rounds you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a modern concept dreamed up as recently as two or three months ago and in the ownership of one particular political ideology. This is clearly not the case.
Are we to take from Padraig / Patrick’s constant referencing of the threat of sectarianism that NIPSA’s track record and credentials in that regard will be abandoned should he not be elected General Secretary? Are we to believe that Alison Millar, the only other contender in this General Secretary election, will not continue the strong anti sectarian message and work of NIPSA? Hardly.
Why then is this so called threat of sectarianism of such importance to Padraig / Patrick in the course of this campaign? NIPSA has a strong track record of dealing with and tackling sectarianism everywhere that it is encountered. NIPSA will continue to do so in the future irrespective of who the General Secretary might be as the members, and society in general, would and will expect nothing less.
The fact is that the politics of fear and the division of a union based on the political divisions of groupings allowed to wrestle for control within that union are as divisive as sectarianism itself.